The rapid flow of information over the Internet is largely a blessing, but it can also blind us to long-term impacts of past events. We get so hyped up by the newest tragedy, scare or Kanye quote that we forget about serious issues that happened even last week.
But most things don’t just disappear because we forgot about them. There is still an anarchical civil war going on in Syria, communities are still recovering from Superstorm Sandy and Fukushima is still a much bigger issue than anyone lets on.
The Japanese, Canadian and U.S. governments have serious reasons to downplay the full breadth of impact that the spread of radioactive particles into the air and Pacific ocean. First off, Fukushima hasn’t stopped leaking yet.
U.S. government agencies have a history of controlling information and loosening standards after industrial damage to the environment. During the BP Gulf spill, the FDA was lax with normal standards of “safe” seafood. Okay, maybe they were been trying to protect the local fishing economy, but it had the (intended?) side-effect of also glossing over some of the real damages caused by BP, in addition to allowing people to eat food that would have been deemed unsafe weeks before.
So it should come as no surprise to hear that since Fukushima, the EPA has suggested that contaminated water supplies do not need intervention until levels are “27,000 times less stringent than the EPA rule of 3 picocuries per liter.”
The NY Times cites Michio Aoyama, an oceanographer at a research institute in Japan, who is considered an authority on radiation in the sea, as suggesting radioactive cesium 137 is likely filtering into the Pacific at 30 billion becquerels per day, nearly triple last years values. The levels that strontium 90 may be entering the Pacific at a similar rate.
There have been many strange, widespread environmental occurrences that some have attributed to extreme exposure to radioactive particles such as cesium, strontium and iodine. Pacific currents sweep the contaminated water west towards the North Pacific Gyre, splitting off and heading north along the British Columbia and Alaskan shores while simultaneously swooping past Washington, Oregon and California.
The Canadian government claims that its citizens shouldn’t worry about the aftermath of Fukushima affecting them, but signs of its influence are popping up everywhere.
LAST YEAR (Jan 2012), Alex Roslin, a reporter for the Vancouver Sun revealed the findings of a study that showed 73% of mackerel tested, 91% of halibut, 92% of sardines, 93% of tuna and eel, 94% of cod and anchovies AND 100% of the carp, seaweed, shark and monkfish caught by British Columbian fishermen had alarming concentrations of radioactive particles.
“I would probably be hesitant to eat a lot of those fish. There has been virtually zero monitoring and research on this. Is it something we need to be terrified of? No. Is it something we need to monitor? Yes, particularly in coastal waters where concentrations are high.” Nicholas Fisher, Maritime Science Professor SUNY Stony Brook
Sockeye salmon, which range from north of China across the Bering Sea to Washington, have displayed historic lows in population in returning to generational breeding grounds, shutting down commercial fishing and threatening the cultural practices of Alaskan tribes people.
Canadian marine biologist Alexandra Morton has accused the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (FOC) for ignoring an epidemic of bleeding herrings, a migratory species that she believes is carrying contaminants across the ocean and feeding into the food chain.
Time magazine examined how schools of anchovies are particularly susceptible to iodine (levels of iodine were 4,385x legal limits) and cesium poisoning, and how that will spread into larger, more popularly consumed fish such as tuna. The Time article suggests that the short half-life of cesium meant that after the spillage had stopped, it would be a relatively short time before the ocean purged itself. One problem. Fukushima hasn’t stopped yet. And it happened 2 and a half years ago.
The Japanese are trying to build an ice wall around the facility to trap contaminants and prevent further spread.
Polar bears, seals and sea lions in Alaska have had an outbreak of lost fur and bleeding lesions. Though the phenomenon has been appearing since the late ’90s, it has dramatically increased since 2012.
Sea Lions on the California coast have shown some of the same symptoms within the same time frame, and radiation poisoning in the normal hunted food (anchovies and sardines) has led to stunted growth, with many young Sea Lions weighing only 20-30 lbs when they should be over 60.
Tuna in San Diego showed spiked levels of cesium within 4 months of Fukushima, and as the radioactive waste has continued to pour into the westward currents, the likelihood of Pacific tuna being contaminated has only increased.
But don’t worry everyone! Radiation really isn’t that bad for you! Just ask Ann Coulter!
On the real though, radiation poisoning clearly has been wreaking silent havoc on the Pacific ocean ecosystem, with the potential to increase long-term cancer incidence. Exposure to radiation is objectively bad, but consuming radiation, making it internal exposure, is particularly malicious. In this situation, the radical, unstable particles sit inside your body and slowly but continually bombard your insides with damaging waves of decay.
The younger the age of the person exposed to it, the worse long-term effects it can have; studies have shown that mothers who receive abdominal x-rays while pregnant have a significantly increased risk of their children being born with leukemia. And that is with a controlled, split-second exposure, let alone consuming or breathing the “glowing” particles.
Cheer up everyone! The Tokyo Energy Production Company (TEPCO) has finally, with government help, drawn up a comprehensive plan to clean the whole mess up. Announced on August 15 (two years, five months and three days later), Nuclear Regulation Authority, Japan’s nuclear supervision organization, put full approval and support behind the plan. Don’t expect it to be cleared up any time soon, however. Most reasonable estimates place the finish in around 40 years.
Moral of the story is: careful how much Pacific fish you consume. Maybe don’t go swimming in the ocean either. There’s not a whole lot to be done about the contaminants already in the ocean, but hopefully the agencies who are supposed to protect us and keep us informed will decide that an ignorant and manipulated populace is worse than a population equipped with the right information to make healthy choices.
Sources: Time, NY Times, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Telegraph, NBC, ZeroHedge, Sun News Network, Wall Street Journal, Washington’s Blog, Digital Journal, Energy News
Top map credit: Screenshot, Adrift.org.au